Monday, 29 June 2009

Un coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hasard" (A throw of the dice will never abolish chance) [Mallarmé]

La CaixaForum in Madrid

I was planning to go to see the Sorolla exhibition on Sunday but by a twist of fate and a misunderstanding of English, I visited a new gallery in Madrid instead. And what a place. It is the CaixaForum, a new social and cultural centre. There are exhibitions, music performances, film screenings plus poetry and debates. Like Tate Modern, it is a recovered power station and the new building is a blend of the old art nouveau style of the 1900s and the modern. Like Tate, it was also designed by Herzog and de Meuron.

I visited a magnificent collection of ancient Islamic art that is part of the Aga Khan's collection and due to be housed in a new gallery in Toronto. The exhibition is designed around the route from Cordova to the Middle East that was taken by scholars, pilgrims to Mecca and by traders.

I also saw a heartbreaking exhibition about Cambodia. I learnt that around 90 per cent of the population are under 21 years old and 38 per cent are under 15. There are great hopes for the regeneration of this country through the energy of so many young people.

However the statistics around the number of mines and the extent of injuries that are still being incurred are horrfying. There are estimated to be four to six million deactivated mines out there - that is one mine for every three people. Forty per cent of the land is affected by mines.

The exhibition presents factual information alongside some of the most inspiring photographic images I have ever seeen. Positive shots of young people with missing limbs throwing themselves into lakes, for example, with the biggest grins on their faces. The photos are by Gervasio Sanchez and alongside documentaries by Oriol Gispert combine to show the everyday life of Cambodian people and how they are reclaiming their traditional culture eg music, dance and spirtual life.

There is so much to see that I have to revisit this amazing place. One of the most striking features is the Vertical garden (patented by French botanist Patrick Blanc) . The vegetation consists of 15,000 plants from 250 different species that live without soil - they only need water and nutrients. It serves several purposes. The plants provide insulation to the wall of the house at 34 Paseo del Prado and its micro-organisms purify the air, countering the effects of the emissions from traffic. Every city should have at least one!


  1. What an amazing day! Very interesting report. There could be a complete tv magazine program in it.

  2. you are my best follower! Yes it was a really good day with so much more that I have not reported here.I met a Madagascar Orphanage girls choir who were on their way to Granada and my friend introduced me as "a teacher of blind people from London" which meant that I was accorded huge respect and warmth from the adults. They were so lovely!

  3. I keep meaning to go and look at the Vertical Garden! Ah well, plenty of time yet.

    Sounds like you had a good and interesting evening in the end, despite the mix-up! ;-)

  4. Oh, this is beginning to read like a superb guide to where to go in Madrid. Excellent.



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